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The Tiger (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Hoon-jung Park’s “The Tiger” is an amazing, yet violent film that features a wonderful performance by actor Choi Min-shik. And the collaboration of both men have no doubt led to creation of a unique and wonderful film. Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 NEXT ENTERTAINMENT WORLD & SANAI PICTURES. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Tiger

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 140 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dub, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: August 9, 2016


Directed by Hoon-jung Park

Written by Hoon-jung Park

Produced by Min-jung Park

Executive-Producer: Jae-Duk Han

Line Producer: Minkyung Shin

Cinematography by Moo-gae Lee

Music by Yeong-wook Jo

Art Direction: Hwa-sung Cho

Costume Design by  Sang-gyeong Jo


Starring:

Min-sik Choi as Chun Man-duk

Man-sik Jeong as Goo-gyeong

Sang-ho Kim as Chil-goo

Eun-woo Lee as Mai-nyeon

Mi-ran Ra as Chil-goo’s wife

Hyun Seung-min as Sun-yi

Yoo-bin Sung as Suk-yi

Jung Suk Won as Military Officer Ryu

Ren Osugi as Govt. Official Maezono

Hong-pa Kim as Herbal shop owner


An ex-sharpshooter for the Kingdom of Korea (CHOI Min-sik, OLDBOY) is hunting the country’s last tiger. But Japanese forces and vicious local poachers also seek “The Four-Legged Mountain Lord,” and will stop at nothing to claim their prey.


From filmmaker Hoon-jung Park (“The Showdown”, “New World”) comes his latest film “The Tiger”.

Starring veteran Min-sik Choi (“Oldboy”, “I Saw the Devil”, “Lucy”, “Lady Vengeance”), Man-sik Jeong (“Miracle in Cell No. 7”, “Veteran”, “Breathless”), Sang-ho Kim (“Sea Fog”, “The Happy Life”, “The Big Swindler”), Eun-woo Lee (“Moebius”, “Gyeongju”, “Romantic Heaven”), Ren Osugi (“Fireworks”, “The Twilight Samurai”, “Audition”, “Sonatine”) and Yoo-Bin Sung.

And now, “The Tiger” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film begins in 1925.  Living in the mountains in Mt. Jirisan is Chun Man-duk (portrayed by Min-shik Choi), a man who hunts for food for his wife and son and has a reputation for being one of Korea’s top shooters.

One day, while hunting, Chun Man-duk went hunting and comes across a tiger and shoots it.

Fastforward, more than a decade later, during a time when Korea is now occupied by Japan.

The Japanese High Government Official Maezono are after the illusive great tiger of Mt. Jirisan and pressures Japanese Military Officer Ryu (portrayed by Jung Suk-won) to capture the tiger.

Meanwhile, hunters led by Goo-Gyeong (portrayed by Jung Man-sik) have been trying to capture the “one-eyed tiger” but only have been able to kill its mate and two cubs.

And as Maezono is to go back to Japan, he orders his Japanese Military Officer Ryu to get the one-eyed tiger immediately before he leaves.

The Japanese military wants Chun Man-duk to capture it for its skin but for some reason, he no longer hunts and prefers to live in a hut raising his 16-year-old son Syeok (portrayed by Sung Yoo-bin).

Each time Syeok asks his father about the Japanese going after tigers, his father tells him about the mountain gods and refuses to discuss it.

The real reason is because one day, while hunters were trying to capture the one-eyed tiger, they led the tiger into town.  As Chun-man Duk was trying to hunt for it, he accidentally shot and killed his wife instead.  Thus the guilt has prevented him from hunting since that day and he has tried to keep the truth away from his son.

But for Syeok, when he finds out his girlfriend is being forced by her parents to marry another boy, because Syeok and his father are broke.

Determined to prove to his father that he is grown-up and can make his own money and hunt for the tiger, Syeko goes to Japanese Military Officer Ryu to join the hunting team led by Goo-Gyeong.

While they know the boy is to young and inexperienced, they feel that with Syeok joining, chances are that Chun Man-duk will be forced to help the hunters capture the tiger.

But what happens when Syeok joins the hunters in their major hunt for the one-eyed tiger?


VIDEO:

“The Tiger” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good as there is a good amount of grain. Upclose details are very good and skintones are natural (especially the scars on the hunters face or the snow-burned skin of certain individuals), black levels are nice and deep.  Even the CG of the tigers are well-done and look realistic.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Tiger” is presented in Korean 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue is crystal clear, as with the musical score.  There is great use of surround sound during the more action-driven scenes involving artillery blasts, gun shots, the sound of the pack of wolves or tigers growling.  Lossless audio for this film is great!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Tiger” comes with a theatrical trailer.


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When it comes to Korean cinema, I have grown accustomed to watching Min-sik Choi films and knowing that with each film, you are going to get something well-written, violent and sometimes, a film that can be quite dark.

While many will be familiar with Min-sik Choi films such as “Old Boy”, I think that I will remember the first time I watched Choi’s work through the film “Swiri” and with each film, I learned throughout the years, we are going to get something unique and different.

And with his latest film “The Tiger” directed by Hoon-jung Park (who is known for writing film such as “I Saw the Devil” and “The Unjust” and directing “New World”), the collaboration of both men is wonderful.

Without spoiling anything major about the film, the film revolves around the Japanese military expecting  Korean hunters to kill and bring back the great one-eyed tiger.

Anyone who has tried, have been savagely killed by the tiger.

But for Japanese High Government Official Maezono, who is fascinated by tigers, before he leaves to Japan, he wants possession of the great tiger’s skin.

With Japanese Military Officer Ryu’s career on the line, he wants the hunters to do all that is necessary to catch the tiger.

But also knowing that one man, who is known for his shooting and hunting skills is important to be involved in the hunt group.

Unfortunately, that man, Chun Man-duk, has stopped hunting and is a family man raising his teenage son.  For Chun Man-duk, he looks at hunting as the will of the mountain and appeasing the mountain gods, as many of the locals living in the mountains believe in as well.

But because Chun Man-duk has lived a life of poverty and is quite content with his lifestyle, his son Ryeok is not.  Especially now that his girlfriend’s mother is wanting her daughter to marry a boy who comes from a family with money.

Wanting to prove that he is a man and that his father had taught him enough about hunting, Ryeok enlists himself with the Japanese military to join the hunters in their next major hunt for the great one-eyed tiger.

Again, I am not going to spoil the storyline at all, but I will say that director/writer Hoon-jung Park has taken great care in the storyline and not reduce it to any fluff or happy moments, but to show the savagery of hunting, the work of karma and for those who have researched or read traditional Asian stories about respecting the land or its gods, these details are interwoven with the storyline.

Protagonist Chun Man-duk is a man of the land and believes in the tales, while his son does not and just wants to live a normal life like everyone else and wants his father to not live this poor life, picking herbs.

It’s no doubt a struggle, not just with nature but any parent can see how either way is justified.

But what is interesting is how the film shows the mutual respect between Chun Man-duk and the great one-eyed tiger.  And slowly giving viewers tidbits of information of this respect between man and beast but also knowing that karma works in unique ways.

The performance by actor Choi Min-shik is fantastic but credit should also be given to the direction by Hoon-jung Park, the cinematography by Mo-gae Lee but also the visual effects, especially its realistic looking tigers and wolves.

The Blu-ray release features fantastic picture quality and because the number of action sequences, including sequences involving artillery, these sound great for its lossless soundtrack.  Unfortunately, there are no special features included but a theatrical trailer.

Overall, Hoon-jung Park’s “The Tiger” is an amazing, yet violent film that features a wonderful performance by actor Choi Min-shik.  And the collaboration of both men have no doubt led to creation of a unique and wonderful film.

Highly recommended!

 

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Kill Zone 2 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Pou-Soi Cheang’s “Kill Zone 2” is gritty and intense!  It is high adrenaline action from beginning to end, “Kill Zone 2” is an action film that truly kicks ass in many levels and martial arts fans will no doubt be captivated by this film.   Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Sun Entertainment Culture Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kill Zone 2

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 121 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dub, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: July 19, 2016


Directed by Pou-Soi Cheang

Screenplay by Lai-yin Leung, Yin Wong

Produced by Paco Wong, Wilson Yip

Associate Producer: Michael Selby

Executive-Producer: Yi-Qi Chen, Alvin Chow, Alex Tong, Dong yu

Cinematography by Kenny Tse

Music by Ken Chan, Kwong Wing Chan

Edited by David M. Richardson

Production Design: Horace Ma

Casting by Kimberly Hardin, Natasha Ward

Production Design by Niko Villaivongs

Set Decoration by Azul Hicks

Costume Design by Bruce Yu


Starring:

Tony Jaa at Chatchai

Jing Wu as Chan Chi-Kit

Simon Yam as Chan Kwok-Wah

Jin Zhang as Ko Hung

Louis Koo as Hung Mun-Gong

Ken Lo as Wong Kwong

Jun Kung as Hung Mun-Biu

Dominc Lam as Cheung Chun-Tung

Babyjohn Choi as Kwok Chun-Yat

Wai Ai as Dai-Hau

Philip Keung as Fan Ging-Hung

Andrew Ng as Uncle On


When an undercover cop gets too close to revealing the mastermind of a drug syndicate, his cover is blown. Double-crossed and under a false identity, he’s thrown into a Thai prison, where a guard discovers the inmate – claiming he’s a cop – is a bone marrow match for his dying daughter…and his warden may have an even deadlier operation hidden within the prison walls.
In this giddily frenetic follow-up (though not a sequel) to modern martial arts epic KILL ZONE (aka SPL: SHA PO LANG), action icons Tony Jaa (ONG BAK, THE PROTECTOR) Wu Jing (WOLF WARRIOR) and Zhang Jin (IP MAN 3) team up with Hong Kong megastars Simon Yam and Louis Koo for a breakneck story of dirty cops, prison riots, and black market organ transplants, all brought together by a non-stop series of inventive, bone-crunching setpieces.


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In 2005, the action film SPL: Sha Po Lang (a.k.a. “Kill Zone”) starring Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung and Simon Yam was released in theaters and was the top earning film for several weeks in Hong Kong.

Fastforward to 2015 and the sequel “SPL II: A Time for Consequences” (a.k.a. “Kill Zone 2”)  directed by Cheang Pou-soi (“Accident”, “Motorway”) and written by Lai-yin Leung (“Ip Man 3”, “As the Light Goes Out”) and Ying Wong was released in theaters.

Featuring a new story but reprising the roles by Wu Jing (“The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”, “Shaolin”, “Wolf Warrior”) and Simon Yam (“Ip Man”, “Election”, “PTU”), the second film also stars Tony Jaa (“Ong-bak” films, “Furious 7”), Jin Zhang (“Ip Man 3”, “The Grandmaster”, “The Bounty”) and Louis Koo (“Drug War”, “Election”, “Triad Election”, “Flash Point”).

And the film will be released on Blu-ray in July 2016 courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film focuses on several people.  Kit (portrayed by Wu Jing) is an undercover copy who becomes a drug addict in order to infiltrate a crime syndicate that has been kidnapping people and sending them to Thailand, where they are held by corrupt prison warden Ko Hung (portrayed by Jin Zhang) in hidden cells, are killed and their organs are sold on the black market.

The mastermind is Hung Mun-Gong (portrayed by Louis Koo), who has a rare heart condition and needs to undergo a heart transplant but the only person that can give him a matching heart is his younger brother.

So, Hung sends his men to kidnap his brother but the kidnapping goes wrong as Kit is able to relay the details to his uncle, Chan Kwok-Wah (portrayed by Simon Yam) of the police force.

While Hung’s brother is accidentally shot, he is retrieved and kept by the Hong Kong police, meanwhile Kit is kept by Hung’s men and sent to Thailand where he is held in prison for a life sentence by the corrupt prison warden, Ko Hung.

Meanwhile, in the prison is the good-natured prison guard Chatchai (portrayed by Tony Jaa) who is desperately trying to save his daughter Chatchai who has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant to survive.

But as desperate he is to save his daughter, he learns about Ho Kung’s secret rooms of people victims being kept inside.  One young girl who can save his daughter’s life.

Will Chatchai continue to serve Ho Kung after discovering the illegal activities in the prison?  Will Chan Kwok-Wah be able to rescue his nephew Kit from the Thailand prison?  And will young Chatchai be saved?


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VIDEO:

“Kill Zone 2” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good as there is a good amount of grain.  Upclose details are very good and skintones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kill Zone 2” is presented in Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and there is also an English dub soundtrack. While the lossless audio manages to utilize the actions sequences, from gun shots to vehicle crashes to just pure fighting chaos and the ambiance of various locations utilize the surround channels with efficacy.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill Zone 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – Featuring three segments (about two minutes each): The Story, The Fights and The Vision
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring eight deleted scenes.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Kill Zone 2”.

EXTRAS:

“Kill Zone 2” comes with a slipcover.


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When the original “SPL” film was released, the fact that it starred two martial arts legends, Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung together in a film definitely made it an anticipated film.

But when you have a sequel without its two stars, how will you improve on the original, if possible?

The answer was bring in Thailand’s well-known martial artist, Tony Jaa and create a storyline that would feature the return of Wu Jing and Simon Yam and find a bridge between Hong Kong and Thailand for its next storyline.

And here we are with the second SPL film a.k.a. “Kill Zone 2”.

A storyline that deals with abducted children from Hong Kong, being sent to Thailand and being kept in the secret walls by a corrupt prison warden, who kills them and sells their organs to the black market.

Wu Jing plays the role of the Hong Kong undercover detective who manages to infiltrate the Thailand prison, but the journey to get there is not easy as it would require becoming a drug addict and putting his own life at risk.

Running the operation is his uncle, played by Simon Lam who does all he can to protect his nephew but knows that greater things are at stake.

And then you have Tony Jaa as Chatchai, a prison guard and loving father for his daughter who needs a bone marrow transplant due to her leukemia.

Louis Koo plays the role of a Hung, a man who is responsible for the syndicate that kidnaps the children and this time, he is dying and wants his younger brother’s organs, so he devises a plan for his men to kidnap his younger brother and send him to Thailand but the plan is thwarted by the Hong Kong police and the younger brother is retrieved by Hong Kong police, while Kit is taken and imprisoned in the Thailand prison.

For these men, they come from different paths but those paths start to converge and things quickly become chaotic.

As the film tries to tell the story from different vantage points and timelines, at times, things can get a little confusing.  But once the storyline plots start to converge, the story starts to make sense.

The fight choreography is fantastic and while you expect physicality from Tony Jaa, both Wu Jing and Zhang Jin were equally impressive.  But its the fight choreography that was amazing to watch and in someways, it was reminiscent to the classic Jet Li martial art films.

Louis Koo was also surprising because he is not even recognizable in the film and I didn’t even know he was in the film until I watched the special features.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good as there is a good amount of grain.  Upclose details are very good and skintones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  While the lossless audio manages to utilize the actions sequences and ambiance of various locations with efficacy.  There are also a few special features such as the making of the film, deleted scenes and more.

Pou-Soi Cheang’s “Kill Zone 2” is gritty and intense!  It is high adrenaline action from beginning to end, “Kill Zone 2” is an action film that truly kicks ass in many levels and martial arts fans will no doubt be captivated by this film.   Recommended!

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The Mermaid (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are searching for a film that incorporates comedy and action with that Stephen Chow-style of filmmaking that many of us have come to love, then “The Mermaid” is definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Richname Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Mermaid

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), Mandarin and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Polish, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Some Violence)

Release Date: July 5, 2016


Directed by Stephen Chow

Written by Hing-ka Chan, Stephen Chow, Chi Keung Fung, Miu-Kei Ho, Ivy Kong, Si-Cheun Lee, Zhengyu Lu, Kan-Cheung Tsang

Producer: Stephen Chow

Co-Producer: Wei Yang

Consulting Producer: Bill Borden

Co-Executive Producer: Yuan Cai, Zhong-lun Ren

Executive-Producer: Stephen Chow, La Peikang

Co-Executive Producer: Yuan Cai, Zhong-lun Ren

Cinematography by Sung Fai Choi

Music by Fuhua Huang, Jiajia Zheng

Edited by Ka-Fai Cheung, Man To Tang

Art Direction by Raymond Chan, Bruce Yu


Starring:

Chao Deng as Liu Xuan

Yun Lin as Shan

Show Luo as Octopus

Yuqi Zhang as Ruolan

Pierre Bourdaud as The Auctioneer

Ivan Kotik as George

Hark Tsui as Si Ye

Kris Wu as Wu Yi Fan (Cameo)


From Stephen Chow, director of Kung Fu Hustle, comes The Mermaid: the comedic action-filled phenomenon that has become China’s biggest film of all time! When greedy real estate tycoon, Liu XUAN (Deng Chao), buys up a pristine coastal enclave known as Green Gulf, he plans to turn it into the hottest property on the market. But Green Gulf harbors a secret: it’s home to the last surviving mermaids, and they are done playing nice. Their plan: send the beautiful Shan (Lin Yun) to seduce Liu and stop the destruction of their beloved oceans. But when their plan goes belly-up, neither humans nor mermaids are willing to back down, and a final, fatal frenzy becomes inevitable.


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For over 20-years, Stephen Chow has entertained millions of people with his action comedy films.

From “Love on Delivery”, “From Beijing with Love”, “King of Comedy”, “Shaolin Soccer”, “Kung Fu Hustle”, “CJ7” and “Journey to the West”, to name a few.  Chow’s films are original, full of hope and entertaining because you never know what to expect.

And as Chow’s films tend to be high-grossing in the Chinese box office, his latest film “The Mermaid” which was released back in Feb. 2016, became the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time.

The film would star Chao Deng (“Assembly”, “Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame”, “The Four”), Yun Lin (“L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties”), Show Luo (“Journey to the West”, “Hi My Sweetheart”, “Lan qui huo”) and Yuqi Zhang (“CJ7”, “White Deer Plain”, “All About Women”).

And in July 2016, Stephen Chow’s most successful film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The Mermaid” begins with millionaire Liu Xuan (portrayed by Chao Deng) purchasing the Green Gulf, a wildlife reserve for a sea reclamation project.  He dumps sonar technology in order to rid (and kill) any sea life that goes near it.

While his wealthy friends do not put so much belief in Liu Xuan’s ability, because he came from a poor upbringing and because of his Playboy ways.

While he is able to attract the beautiful and money loving Ruolan (portrayed by Zhang Yuqi), who sees the project as wonderful for her to make even more money. She becomes Liu Xuan’s business partner.  But she also wants all Liu Xuan’s attention to be on her.

Meanwhile, at a party, a strange girl shows up and tries to get Liu Xuan to contact her and leaves her a number for him to contact her.  But his bodyguards send her on her way.

When the weird girl goes home, we see her going through home but then going through a tunnel heading downward and we learn that the weird girl, Shan, is actually a mermaid.

And that she was sent by her fellow mermaids to avenge their fallen and those who are near-death due to Liu Xuan’s sonar technology.  The goal is for Shan to use her beauty to lure Liu Xuan to Mermaid home and so everyone can kill him.

But because Liu Xuan’s playboy ways can’t stop him, he ends up calling Shan to come to his building.

Now Shan will have her chance to assassinate him?  Can she kill the man responsible for hurting her fellow mermaids or will she end up falling in love with him instead?


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VIDEO:

“The Mermaid” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor scenes and close ups are full of detail. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film. For the most part, picture quality for the film is great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Mermaid” is presented in Mandarin and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital. As this is an action film, there is a lot of surround sound usage during the more action intense battle exchanges and also good use of LFE during the battles, especially between the mermaids vs. the humans. But overall, dialogue and sound effects are crystal clear.  Great use of the surround channels throughout the film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Polish, Spanish, Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Mermaid” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of the Mermaid – (13:23) Interviews with the cast and crew on the making of the film and their characters.
  • Invincible Music Video – (1:33) The cast members individually lip-synch of “Invincible”.
  • The Mermaid Behind The Scenes – (1:44) A short behind-the-scenes look at the cast having fun behind-the-scenes.

EXTRAS:

“The Mermaid” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet Digital HD code.


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I have watched and reviewed many Stephen Chow films and with each film, he manages to maintain a consistency of comedy, unique storytelling and just creating something out of the ordinary and non-traditional.

And to my delight, I enjoyed “The Mermaid” for its hilarious and unpredictable moments but for a Stephen Chow film, surprised how things got dark and violent for the second half of the film.

The premise of “The Mermaid” is that a playboy millionaire is wreaking havok in the ocean, killing all sealife due to his sonar devices for his reclamation project.

The character Liu Xuan is a playboy, likes to sport a (fake) thin mustache and looks like as if he could give a care for the world.  But deep down inside, he is a lonely guy that wants to be loved, instead of being loved for his money.

All that changes when he falls for Shan, a weird unusual girl who he tries to through money in order for her to leave, but she’s not interested in money.  She is a mermaid who was sent by her group to allure him and so the mermaids can kill him for putting harm to sea creatures and killing and hurting many mermaids.

And as Shan tries her best to assassinate the millionaire or do whatever is possible to lure him to her place and let her fellow mermaids off him, she falls in love with him, ad Liu falls in love with her.  Two lonely souls that have found a wonderful bond and likes.  May it be singing, eating chicken, you name it, they enjoy each other’s presence.  And for Liu, he found a woman that is interested in him and not his money.

But of course, he doesn’t know that she is a mermaid and her goal is to get him killed?

But the true antagonist of the film is Ruolan, the business partner of Liu who is gorgeous but also vain.  She only wants money and she is targeting Liu for his millions.

And she truly hates Shan for captivating his attention and when she finds out that Shan is a mermaid, suffice to say, all hell breaks loose.

Stephen Chow also brings in one of his fellow film actors, Show Luo as Octopus.  Unlike other merman’s, he is half human and half octopus.  He is attracted to Shan, but she is not attracted to him.  He leads the mermaids but gets into situations with his tentacles that one can’t help but laugh, unfortunately also at his pain.

For a Stephen Chow film, he does not star in this film at all.  But surprisingly, we see legendary director Hark Tsui (“Once Upon a Time in China” and “Seven Sword” films) having a role in the film.  And also the appearance of pop star Wu Yifan in a cameo role is another plus.

In fact, for those who have enjoyed previous Stephen Chow films, will find it delightful to see familiar faces in “The Mermaid”.

While many of Stephen Chow films are fantastic.  Many have asked me, how does this film rank in his oeuvre of directed films.  And I think my answer is the same.  I’ll always love his 1994 film “Love on Delivery”, since it was the first Stephen Chow film that I was introduced to.  But my all-time favorite would be his 2001 film “Shaolin Soccer”.

No doubt “Kung Fu Hustle” was amazing and gained the actor/director international recognition and “CJ7” was touching.  But “The Mermaid”, it was a bit different in the fact that while Stephen Chow films have a lot of action, there was no doubt a political message that he was sending with this film.

May it be a message of the slaughter of whales that happens in other islands or the military use of sonar and killing sealife, there is a deep message of the harm that is being done and the hope that it can be stopped.  And because we have seen images of the slaughter of minke whales, Chow drives home the message through visual scenes of savagery.

What is primarily a film full of comedy becomes serious and dark by the second half that you can’t help but be surprised of the transition as you watch major violence upon the two protagonists.  While not uncommon to see in a Stephen Chow film, this is probably the furthest Chow has gone to show his protagonists suffering extreme violence.

But with that being said, “The Mermaid” is an entertaining films.  For its over-the-top humor and its handling of characters, its visual effects.. Stephen Chow has no doubt upped his game.

The performance by Chao Deng, Yun Lin, Show Luo and Yuqi Zhang is wonderful.  Chao and Yun’s onscreen chemistry was captivating!

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic.  Lossless audio is also immersive considering this is an action film.  And you get also a few special features included.

The hard part is with Stephen Chow having directed so many fantastic films, “The Mermaid” would not be on my top 3 favorite Stephen Chow-directed films.  But it is a wonderful and entertaining film that I recommend!

Overall, if you are searching for a film that incorporates comedy and action with that Stephen Chow-style of filmmaking that many of us have come to love, then “The Mermaid” is definitely recommended!

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The Midnight After (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

June 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Midnight After” is a film for those who enjoy series such as “The Twilight Zone” and “LOST”. Those who enjoy horror comedies but also enjoy films that showcase the premise of a fear of the unknown. Filmmaker Fruit Chan is able to deliver an entertaining horror comedy with a message about modern society. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Golden Scene Company Limited. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: The Midnight After

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: 121 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 Widescreen, Cantonese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English and Chinese

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

AVAILABLE ON: July 5, 2016


Directed by Fruit Chan

Screenplay by Fai-Hung Chan, Fruit Chan, Ho-Yan Kong

Produced by Amy Chin

Executive Producer: Fruit Chan, Winnie Tsang

Associate Producer: Alex Tong

Music by Veronica Lee, Ellen Joyce Loo

Cinematography by Wah-Chuen Lam

Production Design by Lim Chung Man, Andrew Wong

Costume Design by Phoebe Wong


Starring:

You-Nam Wong as You Zhi-chi

Janice Man as Yuki

Simon  Yam as Wong Man-fah

Kara Hui as Mak Sau-ying

Tien You Chui as Shun

Suet Lam as Suet

Goo-bi GC as Pat

Shing-Cheung Lee as Bobby

Sam Lee as Blind Fai

Cherry Ngan as Yi, Chi-chi’s Girlfriend

Kin-Long Chan as Glu-Stick

Ronnie Yuen as Airplane

Melodee Mak as Lavina

Jan Curious as Auyeng Wai

Chui Tien-you as Shun


16 strangers on a bus. An apocalyptic accident. A downtown full of people: Vanished. The newly-dead: Instantly Decaying. Ominous glimpses of men in gas masks. What has happened to the world, and how far would you go to get your life back?


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What would you do if everyone disappeared in the world and all that is left is you and sixteen other people you rode in the bus with?

From filmmaker Fruit Chan (“Made in Hong Kong”, “Three…Extremes”, “Hollywood Hong Kong”) comes his horror-comedy “The Midnight After”, an adaptation of a serialized web fiction titled “Lost on a Red Minibus to Tai-Po” by an anonymous writer known as Pizza and was published as a novel in 2012.

The film stars You-nam Wong (“Ip Man”, “Hollywood Hong Kong”, “Tiger & Dragon Reloaded”), Janice Man (“Nightfall”, “Helios”, “Punished”), Simon Yam (“Ip Man”, “Election”, “PTU”), Kara Hui (“Dragon”, “At the End of Daybreak”, “The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter”), Tien You Chui (“Contagion”, “At the End of Daybreak”, “After This Our Exile”), Suet Lam (“Kung Fu Hustle”, “PTU”, “Election”), Goo-Bi GC (“Exodus”, “Temporary Family”, “20 30 40”), Shing-Cheung Lee (“Journey to the West”, “CJ7”, “The Stool Pigeon”), Cherry Ngan (“The Way We Dance”, “Nightfall”, “Mojin – The Lost Legend”) and Sam Lee (“Made in Hong Kong”, “Ping Pong”, “Dog Bite Dog”).

“The Midnight After” revolves around 17 people who catch a late bus from Mong Kok to Tai Po.

This includes the driver (portrayed by Lam Suet), the elder Fat (portrayed by Simon Yam), the loverboy Yau Tsi-chi (portrayed by Wong You-nam), the worried about her boyfriend Yuki (portrayed by Janice Man), the music store manager Shun (portrayed by Chui Tien-you),  the insurance salesperson/space zealot Mook Sau-ying (portrayed by Kara Hui), the otaku Auyeung Wai (portrayed by Jan Curious), the cocaine addict Blind Fai (portrayed by Sam Lee), soccer fans Pat (portrayed by Cheuk Wan-chi) and her husband Bobby (portrayed by Lee Sheung-ching), a woman named Lavina (portrayed by Melodee Mak) and two juvenile delinquents Airplane (portrayed by Ronnie Yuen) and Glu-stick (portrayed by Kelvin Chan) and four university students.

As each of them are riding the bus, as they go into a tunnel and come out, everyone tries to reach friends and love ones on their phone but no one is answering.  Each call the police and no one answers.

Everyone starts to realize that there are no signs of cars or people, even of it’s late, the city is empty.

Worried about what may happen, each are determined to stay in touch with each other.

The first one let out of the bus are the four university students.  As they get out, one is sick and the three try to get help but no one is alive or around.

As Yau Tsi-chi and Yuki leave, Yau keeps seeing a person wearing a gas mask and a vision of an evil Yuki with her hair flying all over the place.

Worried about his girlfriend, Yau Tsi-chi rides his bike all the way back to Kowloon but no one is at her place.  All he finds is dust.

Meanwhile, as the students are unable to get help, they find their friend convulsing and later blowing up.  Running away to get some help, the three see Yau Tsi-chi riding his bike, but as they run after him, the three end up turning into dust and exploding or shattering.

Everyone then receives a phone call of shrieking.

The surviving people who rode on the bus end up going to a restaurant and trying to figure out what has happened.  Shun is able to deduct that the shrieking is actually a message in morse code.  The phrases from the morse code happens to be give reference to the David Bowie song “Space Oddity”.

But what does the song happen to do with what is happening to the world?

And who of the surviving people on the bus will survive in the end?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Midnight After” is presented in 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and English 5.1 Dolby Digital. While I would have loved to watch the film in HD on Blu-ray, picture quality is good as one can expect on DVD. Audio is also very good considering all the action showcased in the film with good use of surround channels and LFE, especially its use in order to scare the audience.

Subtitles are in English and Chinese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The only special features included is a trailer.


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The two primary reasons that attracted me to watching “The Midnight After” is filmmaker Fruit Chan who strays away from traditional Hong Kong cinema and creating cinema that is different and original.

And the other reason is for actor Sam Lee, because any horror films that tend to star him tend to be a lot of fun and often crazy.

From “Bio-Zombie” and “Bio-Cops” and the fact that both Chan and Lee have collaborated before, needless to say, I couldn’t help but wonder what type of horror comedy that Fruit Chan had up his sleeve.

What we get is something that feels very “Twilight Zone” mixed with the popular American sci-fi drama series “Lost”.

A group of people who are very different from each other, now having to work together and survive and find out why the world has changed and why they are the only people alive.

Some wonder if it’s a virus like SARS and people have turned into zombies, others wonder if it was some sort of radiation or aliens. And the confusion intensifies with morse code that translates into lyrics from David Bowie’s hit 1969 song “Space Oddity” and a mysterious figure wearing a gas mask.

But its the sense of not knowing what is going on that helps propel the film to become interesting and seeing who survives and dies.  Not just from whatever is out there killing them but also from the survivor’s own hands.

But underneath all the comedy and the jokes, leaving that aside, there is a message within the film that discusses various issues affecting people, from the lack of religious beliefs, economic downturn, lack of trust in the political system and other themes.

And as for the horror, one should not think of blood curdling horror but more of the fear of the unknown and also, how the survivors respond when one of their own commits an unforgivable crime.  Also, give thanks to the use of sound and music in creating hair jumping fear for the viewer.

“The Midnight After” is a witty and entertaining film, but for those looking for a resolve, the film is one of those that requires for one to come up with answers for themselves.  Nothing is clear cut.

As for the DVD, picture and audio quality is good, as one can expect on DVD, but wish this film was released on Blu-ray.  And as for special features, there are none.

Overall, “The Midnight After” is a film for those who enjoy series such as “The Twilight Zone” and “LOST”.  Those who enjoy horror comedies but also enjoy films that showcase the premise of a fear of the unknown.  Filmmaker Fruit Chan is able to deliver an entertaining horror comedy with a message about modern society.

Recommended!

 

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Rise of the Legend (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Rise of the Legend” does an exciting job of showcasing legendary Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung. The fight choreography is top-notch and actor Eddie Peng does a solid job taking on the mantle of the legendary hero. For those who love hardcore action and martial arts, you’ll no doubt love Roy Chow’s “Rise of the Legend”. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Edko Films Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rise of the Legend

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 132 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Mandarin and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English subtitles

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: May 24, 2016


Directed by Roy Hin Yeung Chow

Written by Chi-long To

Produced by Ivy Ho, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung

Executive-Producer: Ryuhei Chiba, William Kong, Hugh Simon

Cinematography by Man-Ching Ng

Music by Shigeru Umebayashi

Edited by Ka-Fai Cheung, Man To Tang

Art Direction by Pater Wong

Costume Design by Stephanie Wong


Starring:

Sammo Kam-Bo Hung as Master Lui

Eddie Peng as Fei

Luodan Wang as Chun

Boran Jing as Fiery

Cho-Lam Wong as Big Tooth

Junji Qin as Food

Byron Mann as Black Crow

Tai-Yu Gao as Wing

Tony Ka Fai Leung as Fei’s father

Angelababy as Orchid


A martial artist with extraordinary power (Eddie Peng) returns to the town where his father was murdered to face off against a ruthless crime boss (Sammo Hung) and bring justice back to the people.


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When it comes to action films, Wong Fei-hung (a real Chinese folk hero) has been immortalized on many films and television.

While in reality, known for being an expert in Hung Ga style of Chinese martial arts and teaching acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine, in movies, he legendary status has taken on different forms.

From Jackie Chan’s 1978 film “Drunken Master” and 1994’s “Drunken Master II”, Gordon Liu’s “Challenge of the Masters” and “Martial Arts Club”, Jet Li’s “Once Upon a Time in China”, Donnie Yen’s 1993 film “Iron Monkey”, Sammo Hung as Wong in the 2004 film “Around the World in 80 Days” and now with Eddie Peng in the 2014 film “Rise of the Legend”.

Directed by Roy Chow (“Lust, Caution”, “Nightfall”, “Murderer”), the film would star Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (“Ip Man 2”, “My Lucky Stars”, “Martial Law”), Eddie Peng (“Unbeatable”, “Hear Me”, “To the Fore”), Luodan Wang (“The Continent”, “Caught in the Web”), Boran Jing (“Monster Hunt”, “The Bullet Vanishes”, “Lost and Love”), Cho-Lam Wong (“Come On, Cousin”, “La comedie humaine”), Junjie Qin (“Curse of the Goldden Flower”, “Painted Skin: The Resurrection”), Byron Mann (“Catwoman”, “Red Corner”, “Street Fighter”), Tony Ka Fai Leung (“Detective De: Mystery of the Phantom Flame”, “Bodyguards and Assassins”, “Election”) and Angelababy (“Hitman: Agent 47”, “Tai Chi Zero”, “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon”).

And now “Rise of the Legend” will be available in May 2016 courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Rise of the Legend” revolves around Wong Fei Hung (portrayed by Eddie Peng) during the late Qing Dynasty, and during a time when two crime factions are running the Huangpu Port: The Black Tiger and the Northern Sea.

Wong Fei Hung has been wanting to get revenge for the death of his father (portrayed by Tony Ka Fai Leung) and the abduction of his childhood friend/girlfriend (portrayed by Wang Luodan).

So, he finds a way to get into the Black Tiger gang led by Master Lui (portrayed by Sammo Kam-bo Hung) and his three sons who rule different territories in Guangzhou.

Master Lui makes a proclamation that if someone can get the head of the leader of the Northern Sea, they will become Master Lui’s fourth son.

And so, Wong Fei Hung must do what he can to infiltrate the Black Tiger gang and become the fourth son and take out the three crime leaders and Master Lui.

Can he do it?


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VIDEO:

“Rise of the Legend” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks vibrant and full of detail. Closeups show great detail and visual effects look good as well. For the most part, the film does a good job of blending in the special effects into the choreography.

But the film looks fantastic in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rise of the Legend” is presented in Mandarin and English (dub) 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features a lossless soundtrack that has crystal clear dialogue, music and offers a good amount of surround sound during moments of action (which there are many in this film).

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rise of the Legend” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – Featuring a short making-of featurettes that got into the characters, Eddie Peng, injuries suffered on set, cinematography and special effects.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for”Rise of the Legend”.

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Actor Eddie Peng is no doubt in good company when playing the legendary folk hero Wong Fei-hung.

The role has been played by Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Gordon Liu and Vincent Zhao, to name a few.

And if you are going to play Wong Fei-hung, you are going to have to be physically fit and ready for the action (and also injuries that comes along with shooting martial arts action films).

And suffice to say, Eddie Peng did a magnificent job playing the role, considering a lot of his past roles were dramatic and he was a popular pop singer in Taiwan.

In “Rise of the Legend”, Eddie Peng plays a younger Wong Fei-hung, who has seen a lot of corruption by the local gangs, seeing his father killed in a fire (note: The real Wong Kei-ying did not die this way but in each of the films about Wong Fei-hung, his father was instrumental in making Wong Fei-hung a caring man) and seeing his childhood girlfriend being taken to become a courtesan (many girls were taken from their families or kidnapped or sold to become prostitutes or servants).

And now returning back home to the land where his father was murdered, Wong Fei-hung must infiltrate the Black Tiger Gang and take out all of the leaders in order to give the locals their life back but also getting the revenge that he has been waiting for, since he was a child.

While the film can be a bit banal, in terms of one man taking on hundreds of enemies, taking out the bosses in order to fight the grand boss, there is a bit of strategy on Wong Fei-hung’s part in order to make it all happen, despite also trying to sell the fact that he can be ruthless and a worthy fourth son to Black Tiger leader, Master Lui.

The fight choreography is very well-done and there was a lot of attention focused on various fight moves and as one can watch on the special features, a few of the actors got injured while making this film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic with good attention to detail, especially showcasing the gorgeous production and costume design.  The lossless soundtrack showcases the many action scenes throughout the film.  And for those who do not like to read English subtitles, the film also comes with an English dub.  And there are a few short special features included as well.

Overall, “Rise of the Legend” does an exciting job of showcasing legendary Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung.  The fight choreography is top-notch and actor Eddie Peng does a solid job taking on the mantle of the legendary hero.  For those who love hardcore action and martial arts, you’ll no doubt love Roy Chow’s “Rise of the Legend”.

Recommended!

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The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Naked Island” is visually mesmerizing and entertaining considering there is no dialogue in the film. While filmmaker Kaneto Shindo has a long oeuvre of fantastic films which he directed and wrote, “The Naked Island” stands out for its visual style and storytelling. Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1960 Kindai Eiga Kyokai.  The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811

YEAR OF FILM: 1960

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural in Japanese with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/Toho/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 17, 2016


Directed by Kaneto Shindo

Written by Kaneto Shindo

Produced by Eisaku Matssura, Kaneto Shindo

Music by Hikaru Hayashi

Cinematography by Kiyomi Kuroda

Edited by Toshio Enoki


Starring:

Nobuko Otawa as Toyo (mother)

Taiji Tonoyama as Senta (father)

Shinji Tanaka as Taro (eldest son)

Masanori Horimoto as Jiro (youngest son)


Director Kaneto Shindo’s documentary-like, dialogue-free portrayal of daily struggle is a work of stunning visual beauty and invention. The international breakthrough for one of Japan’s most innovative filmmakers—who went on to make other unique masterworks such as Onibaba and KuronekoThe Naked Island follows a family whose home is on a tiny, remote island in the Japanese archipelago. They must row a great distance to another shore, collect water from a well in buckets, and row back to their island—a nearly backbreaking task essential for the survival of these people and their land. Featuring a phenomenal modernist score by Hikaru Hayashi, this is a truly hypnotic experience, with a rhythm unlike that of any other film.


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In Japanese cinema, filmmaker/writer Kaneto Shindo has had many noteworth films in his oeuvre.  In fact, at the end of his career, Shindo had directed 48 films and wrote 238 scripts.

Known for directing films such as “Onibaba”, “Story of a Beloved Wife”, “Kuroneko”, “A Last Note” to name a few.

And as filmmakers have their muse in their careers, Jean-Luc Godard with Anna Karina, Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren, John Ford and John Wayne, Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, to name a few.

For Kaneto Shindo, he had Nobuko Otawa, his mistress and later his wife.  An actress with a long career and one of her most notable films with Shindo was the black-and-white 1960 film, “Hadaka no shima” (The Naked Island).

A film that would star Otawa, Taiji Tonoyama, Shinji Tanaka and Masanori Horimoto.

A film with no spoken dialogue and featuring a modernist score by Hikaru Hayashi, “The Naked Island” is a unique film which would win the Grand Prix at the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival.

And now, “The Naked Island” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“The Naked Island” follows a family of four that live in a tiny island in the Seto Inland Sea.  They are the only occupants of the island and they survive by farming.

But it’s a harsh life as the husband and wife must continually row a boat from their island to a neighboring island to get water to water their plants and also provide water for themselves to drink and bathe in.

A harsh life in order to survive, we watch the small family to see how they function as a unit in the course of a year.


VIDEO:

“The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811” is presented in 1:35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic, the film features great clarity, wonderful detail and sharpness.  Black levels are nice and deep and the white and grays are well contrast.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new high-definition film transfer was created on a Spirit 4K DataCine from a new 35 mm print struck from the original camera negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches and splices were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, flicker and jitter”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811” in Japanese LPCM 1.0 Monaural audio. The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no signs of major hissing, crackle or audio pops.

It’s important to note that the film is primarily musically driven and features atmospheric noises, the family laughing but there is no spoken dialogue.  The emphasis is primarily on the musical score by Hikaru Hayashi.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered from a 35 mm optical soundtrack positive.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 4.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring the audio commentary by director/writer Kaneto Shindo and composer Hikaru Hayashi.
  • Kaneto Shindo – (7:31) Recorded in 2011 featuring Kaneto Shindo as a greeting for “The Urge for Survival”, a retrospective of his work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
  • Benicio Del Toro – (7:41) A 2016 interview with actor Benicio Del Toro, a longtime advocate for Kaneto Shindo’s work.
  • Akira Mizuta Lippit – (17:11) A 2016 interview with film scholar Akira Mizuta Lippit.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “The Naked Island”.

EXTRAS:

“The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811” comes with a five-page foldout which comes with the essay “The Silence of the Sea” by Haden Guest (film historian and curator and director of the Harvard Film Archive).


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Having watched many of Kaneto Shindo’s films, “The Naked Island” stands out for its beauty, its tragic storyline but also the harsh reality for rural farmers.

In the case of “The Naked Island”, the film focuses on a family that live in an island as its only occupants.

The island has been cultivated for farming and the parents often have to go to the nearby island to get water (via rowboat) to plant their crops but also provide water for themselves.  And also to bring their child to school.

The images of a man and wife having to hold heavy buckets on a stick and balanced on their shoulders, making sure they don’t spill a drop is painful, tiring but its a life that these two are able to survive and provide for their family.

Because they do not live in town and are in their own island.  They are isolated from society.

They do not have television, nor are they seen wearing any extravagant clothes.  We watch as the family bathes in an outside bucket, a father making shoes for himself and the children and a life focused on maintaining crops for food and also to sell to people in town.

Kaneto Shindo is able to make the film entertaining as it has a documentary-style of filmmaking.  Watching these two parents planting and watering their crops, enjoying dinner time with each other, bathing outside and functioning as a normal family, but the fact that they live in an island away from the locals and many other people.

As a viewer, a lot of us can’t fathom the harsh lifestyle that this couple must endure daily, but this is their lifestyle living on the land, living within their means and whatever tools they have on-hand.

What’s interesting is when the children catch a fish and the family goes to the city with their kids to sell the fish to a fishmonger to eat it.  And for the two children, seeing shops and also television is rather not interesting for them as the concept of television seems to unphase them.

Of course, as the family are followed for the course of the year and being a Kaneto Shindo film, you can’t expect everything to be all happy-go-lucky.  And tragedy presents itself and provides one of the most memorable visuals and scenes of the film.

I was moved by “The Naked Island” as the film presents stunning visuals and a budget for a film that relied on Kaneto Shindo to fund as the film company was near bankruptcy.

The film features a modern score by Hikaru Hayashi and for the most part, a film without dialogue and its visual presentation of telling a story is rather unique and mesmerizing.  “The Naked Island” is no doubt a cinematic experience.

The Blu-ray release features fantastic picture quality as black levels are nice and deep, white and grays are well contrast and the monaural soundtrack is crisp and clear with no pops or crackles.

Included is a 2000 audio commentary and also special features recorded in 2016, plus a 2011 retrospective video introduction by Kaneto Shindo.

Overall, “The Naked Island” is visually mesmerizing and entertaining considering there is no dialogue in the film.  While filmmaker Kaneto Shindo has a long oeuvre of fantastic films which he directed and wrote, “The Naked Island” stands out for its visual style and storytelling.

Highly recommended!

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Mojin – The Lost Legend – (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Mojin – The Lost Legend-” was a film that I was highly anticipating but felt a little let down due to poor character development and disjointed pacing, but as a popcorn action film, the film works best at that level and nothing more.

Images courtesy of © 2015 All Rights Reserved by Wanda Media Co., Ltd. Huayi Brothers Media Corporation Enlight Media. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Mojin – The Lost Legend –

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 125 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Cantonese, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English subtitles

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: May 3, 2016


Directed by Wuershan

Screenplay by Zhang Jialu

Produced by Kuo-fu Chen, Kun Tao, Xuejun Wu, Jerry Ye

Co-Producer: Jennifer Dong, Chang-tian Wang, Tongyuan Wang, Zhongjun Wang

Associate Producer: Xiaobei Cao, Helen Li, Felix Liu, Baozhou Ma, Huang Weihai, Kelly Wu, Bernard Yang

Cinematography by Jake Pollock

Music by Koji Endo

Casting by Wayne Chang, Yong Lu

Production Design by Yi Hao, Roxy Martinez

Art Direction by Lingtong Bai, Sonal Naroth

Set Decoration by Lauren Brown, Carlene Wang De Chen, Rocio Gimenez

Costume Design by Aminah Haddad, Kui Zhao


Starring:

Shu  Qi as Shirley Yang

Angelababy as Ding Sitian

Kun Chen as Hu Bayi

Bo Huang as Wang Kaixuan

Cherry Ngan as Yoko

Xia Yu as Da Jin Ya

Liu Xiaoqing as Ying Caihong


Some people have a special gift. They’re able to travel between the realms of the Living and the Dead…and Tomb Raiding can mean Big Business. Welcome to the world of the Mojin. Based on the #1 Bestselling series of novels and starring Shu Qi, Chen Kun, Angelababy, and Huang Bo, MOJIN: THE LOST LEGEND pits a trio of legendary grave robbers against scholars, rivals, and the law until an offer from a mysterious stranger tempts them into one last heist…an adventure that will test their skills, their friendship, and ultimately their mortal souls.


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From Mongolian filmmaker Wuershan  (“The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman” and “Painted Skin: The Resurrection”) comes his big budget film, “Mojin – The Lost Legend -“.

Starring Shu Qi (“The Transporter”, “Journey to the West”, “The Assassin”, “Three Times”), Kun Chen (“Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”, “Painted Skin”, “Painted Skin: The Resurrection”), Bo Huang (“Journey to the West”, “Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen”, “Dearest”) and Angelababy (“Hitman: Agent 47”, “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon”, “Tai Chi Hero”, “Tai Chi Zero”).

The film, based on the popular adventure novel series “Ghost Blows Out the Light” by Zhang Muye about grave robbers.

The first film “Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe” was based on the series first four volumes but after Wanda Meda acquired the rights to the last four volumes, “Mojin – The Lost Legend” which is based on the series’ last four volumes features a different cast, as other production companies added to the financial product and thus a bigger production, filmed in different parts of the world.

The film was released in 2D, 3D, IMAX and IMAX 3D formats in China and was released in the US and Canada ala 2D.  

The film was a success in the box office as “Mojin – The Lost Legend” was budgeted at $37 million, would go on to earn $278.3 million worldwide.  And would become the highest-grossing IMAX film of all time in China.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA.

The film is set in the 1990’s and begins with tomb explorers Hu Bayi (portrayed by Chen Kun), Wang Kaixuan (portrayed by Huang Bo) and Shu Qi (portrayed by Shirley Yang) on a tomb raiding expedition.

As Hu Bayi opens a tomb, he lifts the veil and sees a girl that is familiar to him.  It happens to be his first love Ding Sitian (portrayed by Angelababy).  A hole appears and she reaches out to him, he tries to reach out to Ding but is unable to grab her hand.  Ding is sucked into the hole.

Fast forward as the group is now living in New York and Hu Bayi is supposed to marry Shirley, but before his wedding, he is unable to as his thoughts about Ding has haunted him.

Shirley is upset but Hu Bayi explains what happened in the past.

Long ago, Hu Bayi and Wang Kaixuan were part of a group that would raid tombs, along with Ding Sitian.  But when they went to Mongolia, their group was wiped out by deadly insects that were kept underground by structures which the group had knocked down.

When many of them found a secret location, they come in contact with dead Japanese soldiers who look as if their life was sucked out of them.  But when the group continues to touch things inside an ancient tomb, the Japanese soldiers awaken as zombies.

Many of the group were killed, but Hu, Wang and Ding, tried to escape.  But for some reason, only Hu and Wang were able to escape.  And it has haunted both men for the last 20-years.

But a mysterious businesswoman/cult leader named Ying Caihong (portrayed by Liu Xiaoqing) has hired the two men to find the ancient tomb of a Mongolian princess.

Hu Bayi is hesitant but Wang Kaixuan wants to return to complete his mission in memory of Ding Siian in finding a relic.  Shirley who is upset that Hu Baiyi’s memories still are with Ding Sitian, can’t forgive him but joins the two on the adventure, whether they like it or not.


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VIDEO:

“Mojin – The Lost Legend -” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  It’s important to note that the film was originally shown in theaters in 3D, so when watching the visual effects, you can literally tell that the way the effects were geared to have things breaking up in front of the screen, it was meant to be seen in 3D.  Unfortunately, the film was not released in 3D on Blu-ray.

But during outdoor scenes, may it be in New York or in Asia, the film looks vibrant and full of detail.  Closeups show great detail and visual effects look good as well.  I did feel that the underground tombs looked a bit CG at times but for the most part, picture quality is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mojin – The Lost Legend -” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features a lossless soundtrack that has crystal clear dialogue, music and offers a good amount of surround sound during moments of action or even hearing rocks crumbling, water building up or splashing.

Subtitles are in English and Chinese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mojin – The Lost Legend -” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (4:00) Featuring a short making-of featurette for”Mojin – The Lost Legend -“.
  • Behind-the-Scenes – (Around 3 minutes each) Short behind-the-scenes with Chen Kun and Huang Bo.
  • Trailer –  Theatrical trailer for”Mojin – The Lost Legend -“.

Prior to watching “Mojin – The Lost Legend”, I admit that I was excited to watching this film and seeing actress Shu Qui in another action film but also being paired by two very talented actors Chen Kun and Huang Bo.  But also seeing newcomer Angelababy in another action film since the “Tai Chi Hero” and “Tai Chi Zero” films.

After watching the film, I felt that not only was this film more of a popcorn action film, it’s a film that tried to be too many things and overall film suffered because of it.

The storyline revolves around three tomb hunters or grave robbers looking for treasure and we get scenes of the group in the present (which Shu Qi is part of) and then the past (which Angelababy is part of).

Part of the problem is that the first film was created with a different cast and released in theaters in September 2015. The film (based on the first four novels) would establish all three characters effectively but instead, a new film with more financial backing and thus hiring better known talent to create “Mojin – The Lost Legend -” based on the last four novels.

The character development, especially with the relationship between Hu Bayi and Shirley Yang is not well-executed and Hu Bayi is stoic and distant, while Wang Kaixuan is more in the film for comedic effect.  I felt the film doesn’t utilize the talents effectively, and while I found Shu Qi to be absolutely charming in the film, after her performance in “The Assassin”, it seemed that her appearance in the film was far too subdued.

Watching the film in 2D didn’t help matters as the film looked as if it was really geared for 3D and the effectiveness of feeling the danger of the tombs and things shattering, it doesn’t work all that well in 2D, so in some ways, I felt “Mojin – The Lost Legend-” would have been a great 3D/2D Blu-ray release.

What I did enjoy is the overall adventure and at some moments the costume design and visual effects were well-done. But in truth, the moments I did enjoy are the breathtaking outdoor scenes in New York or Mongolia, which were gorgeous to look at in HD.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Mojin – The Lost Legend-” looks great in HD.  Great close-up details, vibrant outdoor scenes, picture quality is top notch.  But as mentioned, many scenes that were meant for 3D, look a bit too CGI at times.

Lossless audio was effective during the more rockier and water-heavy scenes, especially action scenes.  So, good to hear the surround channels being well-utilized.

Special features were short but won’t complain as a lot of Asian cinema on Blu-ray released in the US typically come without special features.  Better getting a little something rather than nothing.

Overall, “Mojin – The Lost Legend-” was a film that I was highly anticipating but felt a little let down due to poor character development and disjointed pacing, but as a popcorn action film, the film works best at that level and nothing more.

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Ip Man 3 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Ip Man 3” features drama and action but is less about Ip Man taking on challenges alone, but also learning in life of what is important and what in life is worth fighting for. If you enjoyed the first two films, “Ip Man 3” is worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Pegasus Motion Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ip Man 3

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Cantonese, English, Spanish and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English subtitles

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: April 19, 2016


Directed by Wilson Yip

Written by Tai-Li Chan, Lai-yin Leung, Edmond Wong

Produced by Zheng Xu

Cinematography by Xiofei Song

Costume Design by Cho Ting Chung


Starring:

Donnie Yen as Ip Man

Lynn Hung as Cheung Wing-sing

Jin Zhang as Cheung Tin-chi

Mike Tyson as Frank

Patrick Tam as Ma King-Sang

Karena Ng as Miss Wong

Kai-Chung Cheung as Chui Lek

Kent Cheng as Fatso

Ka-Yan Leung as Master Tin

Kwok-Kwan Chan as Bruc Lee

Xiao Long Li as Ching

Sung Man Ban as David

Wang Yan Shi as Ip Ching


Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2) ignites the screen in a return to the role that made him an icon – as Ip Man, the real-life Wing Chun grandmaster who mentored Bruce Lee. In this explosive third installment of the blockbuster martial arts series, when a band of brutal gangsters led by a crooked property developer (Mike Tyson) make a play to take over the city, Master Ip is forced to take a stand. Fists will fly as some of the most incredible fight scenes ever filmed play out on the big screen.


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With the enormous success of the previous two “Ip Man” films starring Donnie Yen, the third film features a return to the drama of the first film and the action of the second.

Director Wilson Yip returns to direct the third film, Donnie Yen (“Hero”, “Blade II”, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, “Shanghai Knights”) reprises his role as Ip Man and Lynn Hung (“My Sassy Girl 2”, “All’s well, Ends Well 2010”) reprises her role as Ip Man’s wife, Cheung Wing-sing.  The film also stars Jin Zhang (“Kill Zone 2”, “The Grandmaster”, “The Bounty”), boxing legend Mike Tyson (“The Hangover”, “The Hangover Part II”), Patrick Tam (“Zu Warriors”, “Port of Call”, “The Merger”), Karena Ng (“Magic to Win”, “Hotel Deluxe”, “All’s Well, Ends Well 2012”), Kent Cheung (“Crime Story”, “Once Upon a Time in China”, “Ip Man 2”) and Kwok-Kwan Chan (“Shaolin Soccer”, “Kung Fu Hustle”, “The Legend of Bruce Lee”).

The film is set in 1959 and Ip Man is a popular Wing Chun teacher and living with his wife Cheung Wing-sing.  His eldest son Ip Chun has went to Foshan to study, while his youngest Ip Ching lives with them.

The film begins with a young Bruce Lee (portrayed by Kwok-Kwan Chan) asking Ip Man to become one of his students and demonstrate how quick he is.  Ip Man tells the young man to come back.

Meanwhile at school, young Ip Ching is fighting with his classmate Cheung Fung.  Both are disciplined but as Ip Man is late to pick up his son, he tells the school that he will take both boys and Cheung Fung can pick his son up at his home.

Cheung Fung is surprised to see that Ip Ching’s father also has a wooden dummy to practice his Wing Chun martial arts.  When Ip Man asks Cheung Fung who his mentor is, he mentions his father, Cheung Tin-chi (portrayed by Jin Zhang), who works as a rickshaw operator.

Cheung Tin-chi learned from another master taught by Ip Man’s master, but both have different perspectives on how to utilize their Wing Chun.  Cheung Tin-chi who wants to build his own school as the true Wing Chun school one day.

Cheung Tin-chi helps pay the bills by also participating in a black market boxing match and so far, he is undefeated.  The organizer is a local triad leader named Ma King-sang (portrayed by Patrick Tam), who works for American property developer and boxer, Frank (portrayed by Mike Tyson).

Frank wants a piece of land occupied by the local school which both Ip Ching and Cheung Fung attend.  When Ma King-sang and his gang try to assault the school headmaster, he is saved by Ip Man who quickly beats the men.

The men try to show their power towards the school the following day by trying to lock up the school but once the school breaks the locks, Ma King-sang sends many of his men to kidnap the headmaster and immediately, Ip Man and his class fend off the gang, with the help of Cheung Tin-chi.

Meanwhile as Ip Man tries to defend the school from thugs, he is unaware that his wife Cheung Wing-sing wishes he is home more often. But also that she is very ill.

Ip Man must prepare for upcoming challenges that lie ahead.


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VIDEO:

“Ip Man 3” is presented in 1080p High Definition and shot in 2:35:1.  It’s important to note that the film was originally shown in theaters in 3D but for the most part, close-ups on facial features and clothing show amazing detail.  The film looks natural with a cooler setting with no issues of artifacts or banding.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ip Man 3” is presented in Cantonese, English, French and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features a lossless soundtrack that has crystal clear dialogue, music and offers a good amount of surround sound for crowd ambiance and action scenes. Also, good use for the surround channels during the action sequences.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ip Man 3” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – Featuring two short making of featurettes: Story (2:29) and Action (2:52)
  • Interviews – Featuring interviews with Donnie Yen (6:04), Mike Tyson (7:27), Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson for the “Ip Man Press Day” (5:27) and Director Wilson Yip (9:05)
  • Behind-the-Scenes – (2:19) Short behind-the-scenes from “Ip Man 3”.
  • Trailers –  Teaser, Theatrical trailer and International Trailer for “Ip Man 3”.

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After watching the first “Ip Man” film, I immediately realized that the film was one of my favorite martial arts films I have seen probably in the last decade, possibly within the last 15 years.

The film was loosely based on Yip Kai-Man, a Chinese martial arts master who taught Wing Chun and one of his famous students who became a teacher was legendary martial arts film actor Bruce Lee.

The first film showcased Ip Man’s (played by Donnie Yen) Wing Chun style of martial arts which was well-revered in his hometown of Foshan.

Married and living a good life teaching Wing Chun, life changed miserably after the Japanese occupied the area during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Chinese spirits were demoralized as Chinese were killed by Japanese, homes and possessions were lost and Chinese were forced to live in poverty without any food. This includes the well-respected Ip Man and his family.

In the first film, many Chinese martial artists were pit against a Japanese military leader or Japanese soldiers in fighting competitions to show which country had the best martial arts.

For many Chinese martial artists, not only was it to defend their country but it was their way of getting food to bring home to their family but while some were able to bring food home, many were killed for no reason.

Having seen enough of the injustice, Ip Man has no choice but to fight against Miura in a final battle.

The film ends with Ip Man and his family being rescued by his friend, businessman Zhou Qing Quan (played by Simon Yam) who will try to escape with Ip Man to Hung Kong.

“Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster” begins with flashbacks from the first film and showing us that their friend Zhou Qing Quan was shot in the head by a Japanese soldier.

The film then focuses on Ip Man as he tries to gain the respect of the local martial arts masters of Hung Kong, especially Master Hung who leads the group that allows martial artists to have their own school.

Ip Man must now take on the other martial artists and Master Hung in competition but with hostilities between Ip Man’s students and Hung’s students at an all time high, will the two become friends or enemies?

Also, unbeknown to the local Hung Kong martial artists, an arrogant British champion boxer named Taylor “The Twister” Milos (played by Darren Shahlavi) is wanting to test Western Boxing againstChinese martial arts.

But the local martial artists quickly realized that Twister is a savage beast in the boxing ring and is insulting to the Chinese
people and Chinese martial arts.

I criticized the second film for straying away from what made the first film so magnificent and also straying away from the family dynamic between Ip Man and his wife.

The third film is a mashup of both.  The drama featuring a wife who wants her husband to pay more attention to her and the family rather than his school and his duty but Ip Man learning not martial arts, but what is more important to him.

Of course, “Ip Man” films are always action-driven and this film features plenty of action choreography as Ip Man takes on many thugs, a fight with Frank, portrayed by Iron Mike Tyson.  But a battle of the two Wing Chun masters on who’s Wing Chun is the best.

The first “Ip Man” film was magnificent because it was slightly based on true events and also the time period between China vs. Japan, while the second film featured the battle between two martial arts film legends, Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung.  But it strayed too far from the first film’s concept, was more popcorn action and was average at best.

The third film tries its best to balance drama and action and while the drama was the film’s most endearing moments, the action in this film was good but lacked substance when compared to the first film.  And it’s tough because that first film raised the bar for quality storytelling and action.  Action with substance and their was true meaning.

For me, “Ip Man 3” tries very hard to appeal to people of all ages and where the first film was able to taking things far in terms of story and action but also a strong feeling of dread, these last two films felt diluted.  In “Ip Man 3”,  if thugs had kidnapped Ip Man’s son, I don’t think they would have failed with hundreds of people fighting Ip Man to make a statement or make him feel desperate enough to save his son.

Every action scene felt too safe for its own good. And while the film is action-packed, the first “Ip Man” film still blows it out of the water in terms of storytelling, action and characters.  The first film made us root for Ip Man to defeat the antagonist, for the third film, the antagonists never really posed too much of a threat to Ip Man.

While Mike Tyson is a big antagonist in terms of character, he’s only a small part of the film and that is a good thing.

The true battle of “Ip Man 3” is between Donnie Yen’s Ip Man and Jin Zhang’s Cheung Tin-chi and unfortunately, the film’s build-up doesn’t make us care too much about his character, which is fine, but it doesn’t make us vilify or hate him.  Perhaps if he was a true antagonist, we can root for Ip Man but unlike the first film where the antagonist was of true evil, Cheung Tin-chi is a man that is just full of ego and because it’s an “Ip Man” film, we know how the film will end.

But the true story of “Ip Man 3” is the relationship between Ip Man and his wife, Cheung Wing-sing who is severely ill.  We watched this couple take on challenges in the first two films but this is a challenge that many of us who have lost a love one to cancer, unfortunately knows too well (especially before technological advances) on how this will end.

Donnie Yen does a great job of playing the well-disciplined Ip Man, but it was great to see director Wilson Yipp give actress Lynn Hung a much juicier role in which she is able to showcase her emotions with true efficacy.

The Blu-ray release is very good, as the film shows great detail in HD.  The lossless soundtrack also utilizes the action sequences and ambiance very well and you get a few (short) special features as well.

Overall, “Ip Man 3” features drama and action but is less about Ip Man taking on challenges alone, but also learning in life of what is important and what in life is worth fighting for. If you enjoyed the first two films, “Ip Man 3” is worth checking out!

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The Great Hypnotist (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Great Hypnotist” is a wonderful Chinese mystery-thriller that has you thinking one way, until the film pulls of major twists that will either surprise you or turn you off. It’s unexpected, but I felt the sudden twists in the storyline made this film much more enjoyable. “The Great Hypnotists” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Wanda Media Co. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: The Great Hypnotist

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: 102 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Mandarin 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

AVAILABLE ON: April 5, 2016


Directed by Leste Chen

Written by Ren Peng

Executive Produced by Zheng Xu


Starring:

Zheng Xu as Xu Ruining

Karen Mok as Ren Xiaoyan/Gu Jie

Jing Hu as Chen Ting

Zhong Lu as Pro Fang

David Yao-Qing Wang as Luo Yusong


Xu Ruining (Xu Zheng), a nationally renowned therapist incredibly skilled in hypnotherapy. But when his career takes off, he meets a patient named Ren Xiaoyan (Karen Mok) who brings him a complex problem. Xu Ruining discovers that with this particular case, the struggle between the doctor and the patient is not as easy as he expected. Despite her thin and weak appearance, Ren Xiaoyan always reacts violently to any problems with Xu Ruining. He wonders what exactly makes her closed-off to everyone. Is it from a painful memory in her childhood or the ring mark still visible on her middle finger? While sparing no efforts to figure out what has happened, he finds himself falling into a horrible trap…


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From Leste Chen, the director of “The Heirloom” and “Eternal Summer” comes the 2014 Chinese mystery thriller, “The Great Hypnotist”.

Starring actor Zheng Xu (“Lost in Thailand”, “No Man’s Land”, “Lost in Hong Kong”) and actress Karen Mok (“Shaolin Soccer”, “Man of Tai Chi”, “Around the World in 80 Days”, “Fallen Angels”), “The Great Hypnotist” would earn over $44 million (US) at the Chinese Box Office and earned a total of $45.6 million (US) internationally.

And now, “The Great Hypnotist” will be released on DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“The Great Hypnotist” begins with an introduction to Dr. Xu Ruining (portrayed by Zheng Xu), who psychiatrist who treats his patients through hypnotism.

His former Academic Professor, Professor Fang (portrayed by Zhong Lu) asks for his help with a patient named Ren Xiaoyan (portrayed by Karen Mok), a patient who has stumped many psychiatrists.

As a favor, Dr. Ruining takes on the patient.  As he meets Ren, he realizes that the things she talks about is not normal.  She claims that she can talk to dead people, which Dr. Ruining refuses to believe in and feels that perhaps she is a mental case.

Through hypnotism, he tries to find out why she thinks she can talk to ghosts, but Ren is just as defiant to ask why he doesn’t believe her.

But through his analysis of trying to treat Ren, he starts to find himself in unusual territory.  What if Ren is telling the truth?


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VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Great Hypnotist” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and Mandarin 5.1 Dolby Digital. Picture quality is good on DVD. But I wish this film was released on Blu-ray.  The film features good use of CG and visual effects, which work well for the film’s storyline.  Audio is crystal clear with action scenes utilizing the film’s rear surround channels effectively.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Great Hypnotist” comes with a theatrical trailer.


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A little mix of “The Sixth Sense”, in truth, what you are expecting to happen in this film, doesn’t happen because there is a significant twist that sends the film to a whole new direction.

Quite often that diverting path for a film can be scrutinized and may work against the film’s storyline, but for Leste Chen’s mystery thriller, it works very well!

The film revolves around the battle of different perspectives as Dr. Ruining is a man who proves everything by fact and there is a reason for a patient having certain afflictions.  But the character of Ren is adamant that she is not crazy and she can see dead people and tries to explain to Dr. Ruining of the experience she has had.

While similar to “The Sixth Sense”, because of the strict Chinese film bureau on supernatural themes onscreen, Chinese films can’t show horror like other countries.

But without spoiling the film, viewers are given two significant twists that literally cancels everything a viewer has watched for the first hour of the film and while one can see it as a bad thing, in the context of the film’s storyline, who the characters represent and why, I happen to find the storyline to be clever.

Also, I enjoyed the film for having this battle of perspectives between Dr. Ruining and Ren.  Actor Zheng Xu has no doubt become the popular actor to come from China, while Hong Kong singer/actress Karen Mok, who has won us over with many of her past films in the ’90s and 2000’s, returns in a wonderful role for her to showcase her emotion portrayal and a reminder of why she has won multiple awards in the past for her acting.

Both do a wonderful job working with each other, as the camera focuses on these two characters primarily.  But while most of the film is shot in Dr. Ruining’s office, there is a good use of editing and visual effects to dig into the psyche of a character and literally taking them to another world or alternate reality.

While I wish the film was released on Blu-ray instead of DVD, the DVD is as good as one can expect on DVD.  Picture quality is good, lossless audio showcase the more action-driven scenes through the rear surround channels.  And unfortunately, the DVD is barebones with no special features but a theatrical trailer.

Overall, “The Great Hypnotist” is a wonderful Chinese mystery-thriller that has you thinking one way, until the film pulls of major twists that will either surprise you or turn you off.  It’s unexpected, but I felt the sudden twists in the storyline made this film much more enjoyable.

“The Great Hypnotists” is recommended!

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Lost in Hong Kong (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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While “Lost in Hong Kong” may not be as wonderful as “Lost in Thailand”, the film still manages to have enough wild and crazy adventures to keep you interested. With an abundance of hilarious mayhem, “Lost in Hong Kong” is a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Beijing Joy Leader Culture Communication Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Lost in Hong Kong

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 114 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English subtitles

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: March 1, 2016


Directed by Zheng Xu

Written by Huan Shu

Produced by Zheng Xu

Cinematography by Xiofei Song

Costume Design by Cho Ting Chung


Starring:

Zheng Xu as Xu Lai

Wei Zhao as Spinach/Cai Bo

Bao Bei’er as Cai Lala

Du Juan as Yang Yi

Sam Lee as Tai Pak Ho

Eric Kot as Senior Hong Kong Cop


Xu Lai had dreams once. To be an artist and marry the girl of his dreams. 15 years later, he s sick of designing bras, humoring his baby-crazy wife, and catering to loopy in-laws. But his upcoming family vacation, now including his DVD-pirating, aspiring-documentarian brother-in-law, has a hidden agenda: a chance meetup with his old flame. But ditching his clan for a clandestine hookup might be the least of his worries. There s been a murder, and his new hot pursuit might be from the cops who want a word with him. Written, directed, produced and starring veteran actor Xu Zheng (LOST IN THAILAND, BREAKUP BUDDIES), LOST IN HONG KONG is the hotly-anticipated sequel to the highest-grossing film in China s history. Also starring Zhao Wei (RED CLIFF, SHAOLIN SOCCER) and Bao Bei er (SNOW GIRL AND THE DARK CRYSTAL, THE FOUR), LOST IN HONG KONG is a raucous comedy of errors that proves truth is stranger than fiction, and while you might not have the life you planned, happy endings might turn up in the places you least expect.


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From the brilliant minds who created the 2010 sleeper hit “Lost on Journey” and the 2012 “Lost in Thailand”, comes their 2015 hit film, “Lost in Hong Kong”.

The film would become the second highest-grossing Chinese film of all time.

The film is directed by actor/producer Zheng Xu (“Crazy Racer”, “Crossed Lines”, “Call For Love”) and written by Huan Shu.

The film stars Zheng Xu, Wang Baoqiang (“Blind Shaft”, “A World Without Thieves”, “A Touch of Sin”), Wao Zhei (“Shaolin Soccer”, “Red Cliff”, “Moment in Peking”), Bei-Er Bao (“So Young”, “My Original Dream”, “Mural”), Du Juan (“American Dreams in China”, “Deja Vu”), Sam Lee (“Made in Hong Kong”, “Ping Pong”, “Gen-X Cops”) and Eric Kot (“Feel 100%”, “Fly Me to Polaris”, “Gen-Y Cops”).

The film features a theme song by Faye Wong and would pay homage with references to 1980’s and 1990’s cinema and also feature Cantopop hits from that time period.

And now “Lost in Hong Kong” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Lost in Hong Kong” begins with an introduction to two university art majors Xu Lai (portrayed by Xu Zheng) and Yang Yi (portrayed by Du Juan), who became very close during the mid-1990’s.

As they painted together, the two would fall in love with each other but each time they tried to kiss, something always prevented them from doing so.

But when Yang Yi transfers to the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the two ended their brief fling and for Xu Lai, had a hard time being without his first love.

But he eventually meets fellow art student Cai Bo a.k.a. “Spinach” (portrayed by Zhao Wei), who’s father owns a famous brassiere business.

And as Xu Lai and Cai Bo eventually get married and Xu Lai works at her father’s business, he stops painting and focuses on building his family.

Nearly 20-years later since his college years, Xu Lai is now bald and he and his wife are still unable to have children.  She desperately wants to have children but for some reason, they have not been successful.

When Cai Bo’s family plans a vacation in Hong Kong, Xu Lai finally feels that perhaps he can visit and see Yang Yi, as he always dreams of fulfilling the kiss that he never received.  And part of him holds on to the past.

While in Hong Kong, Cai Bo’s brother Cai Lala (portrayed by Bao Bei’er) wants to shoot a documentary and begins focusing on his film target, Xu Lai.

And as Xu Lai is trying to plan his reunion with Yang Yi, Cai Lala starts to sense that his brother-in-law may be up to no good.

And as Xu Lai tries every chance to ditch his brother-in-law, it leads both he and Lala to trouble and plenty of adventures during their trip in Hong Kong.


 

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VIDEO:

“Lost in Hong Kong” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the cinematography of Xiaofei Song is absolutely gorgeous. Wide angle shots are breathtaking, capturing various locations of Hong Kong and the crazy adventures that Xu Lai and Lala undertake.  The film focuses on a lot of action scenes but outdoor shots are vibrant in HD. Closeups offer amazing detail of the actors, skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep and the film looks absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Lost in Hong Kong” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features a lossless soundtrack that has crystal clear dialogue, music and offers a good amount of surround sound for crowd ambiance and action scenes. Overall, a lossless soundtrack that is appropriate for this film.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Lost in Hong Kong” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – Interviews with the director/actor Zheng Xu and the cast of “Lost in Hong Kong”.  Broken down into three short featurettes: The Stunts, The Actors and The Characters.
  • Gag Reel – (1:45) Bloopers from the film.
  • Trailer – (2:06) Theatrical trailer for “Lost in Hong Kong”.

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With the success of “Lost in Thailand”, suffice to say that I had great expectations for Zheng Xu’s “Lost in Hong Kong”.

The first film was wild and crazy and its storyline and adventures made the film unpredictable, unique and all out fun.  And because this is a “Lost in” film, I expected the same, minus actor Baoqiang Wang, who has since become one of the highly demanded actors from China since “Lost in Thailand”.

So, similar to “Lost in Thailand”, we have Zheng Xu’s main character Xu Lai, being paired with crazy young brother-in-law LaLa, played by Bao Bei’er.

The situations are much different this time around as the character Xu Lai is a man who dreams of his college past when he was close to artist Yang Yi (played by super model Du Juan).  Each time both characters wanted to kiss each other, some unfortunate circumstance prevented them from doing so.  And because she transferred to a more prestigious art school in Hong Kong, their college relationship had to end.

Xu Lai ends up with Cai Bo a.k.a. Spinach (portrayed by pop star Zhao Wei), who wants to have a baby so badly, but for some reason, they have not been able to have one.

When Cai Bo’s wealthy family plans for a trip to Hong Kong, Xu Lai realizes that this may be his chance to hook up with Yang Yi, who has now become a popular artist in Hong Kong.  But when his brother-in-law LaLa, influenced by documentary filmmakers, wants to film the vacation but focusing on Xu Lai, Xu Lai does whatever he can to throw LaLa off, and so he can meet with Yang Yi.

But when LaLa sees his brother-in-law grabbing a condom, he starts to sense his Xu Lai is up to no good and starts to film his every move.

Unfortunately, this leads to both men getting in tons of trouble and crazy adventures awaits these two individuals as they get gang members chasing after them, cops going after them and even a metal helmet getting stuck on Xu Lai’s head.

For Hong Kong cinema fans, they will absolutely love the film for its many references to popular ’80s and ’90s HK films but also featuring popular Cantopop from that time period.

As “Lost in Hong Kong” has a consistent, wild & crazy adventure for the characters as its predecessor “Lost in Thailand”, the premise is different.

In “Lost in Thailand”, we have two people that are total opposites literally stuck together and need each other to survive, though they drive each other crazy.  While similar in “Lost in Hong Kong”, LaLa is a persistent thorn in Xu Lai’s side and no matter what Xu Lai does to give him the slip, LaLa always finds a way to bother or get in Xu Lai’s way and even get both of them into major trouble.

I did feel “Lost in Hong Kong” ran a little too long and it’s ending was dragged far too long.  But I did enjoy the film because of it’s wild and crazy nature and that is one thing that actor and filmmaker, Zheng Xu has discovered with the last film and tried his best to followup with the same formula.  But there is also a difference with not having actor Baoqiang Wang in the film and I felt the storyline tried to forcefeed the meddlesome LaLa far too much.

While it was great to see Wei Zhao in another comedy, I was more surprised of how well supermodel Du Juan did for this film.  She did a magnificent job.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality and lossless audio are very good and you do get a few short special features included on Blu-ray.

Overall, while “Lost in Hong Kong” may not be as wonderful as “Lost in Thailand”, the film still manages to have enough wild and crazy adventures to keep you interested.

With an abundance of hilarious mayhem, “Lost in Hong Kong” is a film worth watching!

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